Guess what you’re getting for your birthday? A HOUSE! Last night I was mentally composing this letter, thinking about how sad I’ll be to leave this place, and how sad it’ll be when you’re older and you don’t remember living in your great-grandmother’s log cabin. I have a picture of your sister 11 year ago, sitting in the high chair you use sometimes, diving into her birthday cake-your grandmother wasn’t supposed to hold out long enough to see your sister’s 1st birthday, but she showed god and everybody who the boss of this whole thing was and threw the party herself. Sometimes I worry that she’d be disappointed in the way we’ve let the yard go, and the amount of frozen food and take-out consumed in her kitchen. And I worry that in the new house, I won’t be able to create the kind of memories that she did, which made me want to come back here again and again. But you know what? The new house? Won’t have spiders. And maybe a spider-free childhood will be enough to make you love it. That may be enough for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good spider-they eat bugs, they are good luck- but I’m kind of over waking up in the middle of the night with spiders on me. And I’m sure you are too, even though as of yet I haven’t heard that story from you. I’m a little glad you can’t talk yet…But we’d better get out of here soon.
A couple of nights ago when I came home from work you were almost ready for bed, but your dad kept you up for a little while so he could show me your new trick. At Christmas we made these awesome reusable bags with pictures of you and your sister on them. Your dad pulled out a bag, pointed to your sister’s picture and asked, “who’s that?”. “HAN-nah!” you squealed with a grin. I kind of wish I had a picture of that moment, when I clapped my hands over my mouth and tears instantly sprung from my eyes. I mean, you’ve been talking for a while and it’s always cute. And we know you love your sister. You’ve taken lately to spending at least some of each day lobbed up in her bed watching her TV and eating scavenged candy that you find no matter how well she hides it. But I’ve never heard you call her name before and I have to say I that her name has never sounded cuter.
Now that I’m working a few nights a week, your bedtime has begun to stretch into the late late night. I need to admit that I’m secretly glad to find you still awake most evenings, and my admonitions lack a credible edge when I try (halfheartedly) to get you to lie down and go to sleep. It’s not that you hate bedtime; we’re not fighting that battle yet. But you do enjoy being up with us, and you have already figured out that being impossibly lovely is the way to make that happen. I’m so glad you’re learning all these things early, ToddlerA, so that you can perfect your manipulative side before you start having boyfriends. Why, I might not need to buy you that copy of The Rules after all! Last night your sister came home and told us how you hijacked her mother’s day card while she was making it, and how you stood, pencil poised over the paper, until she saw you and started moving in your direction. Then you bent down, furiously scribbling on the card and when she got close enough to you, you threw the pencil at her and ran off. I told her to get used to it, and that when you’re older she can pants you in gym or something.
You’ve been dancing for a long time; lately I don’t even have to play the Baby Einstein soundtrack when you’re watching the DVD in the car, as long as there’s a hip-hop station on. But your favorite bust-a-move music is the LeapFrog Alphabet ball. Uh, yeah. I guess we haven’t played enough Prodigy lately, cause you really do love that alphabet song. We keep trying to get you on video, but as soon as you see the camera you grab for the screen. Thanks, Grandpa Mike! (he taught you about how if you turn the little screen around on the video camera you can see yourself)
This month something happened that has made your father as proud and giddy as I’ve ever seen him. This month, you started really building things with the Legos. Santa brought you a huge bag of giant legos, in fashionable girl shades like orange, pink, and chartreuse, thoughtfully packaged in a bag decorated with flowers, because he knew that with us as parents, there would need to be something somewhere in the house that identified you as a girl. (Before you take away Santa’s feminist card, I’ll have you know that Santa found this bag of ecstasy at a consignment store priced an unbelievable 2 dollars. GO Santa!)
Every day since, I’ve watched your father try ever so gently to nudge you toward the bag of legos-applying maybe a little pressure, but not too much lest we end up with a rebellious child (imagine that) who declares she HATES LEGOS. (Oh, the HORROR) He’s been very patient, sitting there on the rug only a little dejected, building towers and dinosaurs and trains, only to be slapped in the face with rejection when you waddle over and go Godzilla on his creations. This would hurt him more if you didn’t cackle in the most delicious way as you survey your destruction. But lately- FINALLY! It’s All Legos, All The Time. You bring me the bag at least once during the morning, and then when I dump them onto the floor you pat the floor beside you, extend your arm out and wiggle your fingers, which in ToddlerA sign language means “You must sit beside me and play with these blocks, and if you do not, I will follow you around the house screeching and trying to climb up your leg. Don’t think about going near your computer, because I’ve already turned it off. It’s LEGO time!” From what I hear you repeat this skit at least once during each evening when I’m at work, acting as if That Mean Daytime Servant won’t ever open the flowered bag for you. Poor, Poor, Little ToddlerA! Under stimulated and ignored. Kid, I have news for you. When you graduate to the Mother Load of Legos? I am just not going to play with all those tiny blocks. That’s why I’m getting you a brother for your birthday. Oh, that’s right. We’re getting you a house. Well, maybe for Christmas.
In the meantime, you seem to be getting along famously with Baby Jack, who sleeps in your bed now. I’m not sure if I mentioned baby Jack last month, but he’s a doll we got you hoping to soften the blow of finding out you aren’t actually our favorite after all, and that at some point you’ll be required to wait your turn, share, and get off mommy’s pregnant belly. When Baby J first came around he was a novelty that quickly became a bore, but at some point recently Baby J got back in your good graces and now he lives in the bed. You’re not quite ready to share your life with Baby J, but having him in your bed at night is comforting. I can relate. Sometimes we hear you singing to Baby Jack at night or in the morning when you wake up. Yesterday when I laid you down for a nap, you insisted on bringing a little book with you, a book full of pictures of babies. Before I even turned away from the crib, you were laying there on our back holding the book up above your face, reading to baby Jack. Sometimes in the morning, if we don’t respond in the arbitrary time you deem appropriate, we hear a telltale thud as Baby jack hits the ground. That’s how we know you’re serious about getting out of bed: Baby Jack hits the floor and then you start bouncing on the mattress, using the side rail as support. That bouncing is no joke. I can hear you bouncing from the kitchen! I personally think we should get you a trampoline but Dr. Safety (aka Dad) says we have to wait. So I guess you’ll be getting your own real baby jack before you ever get a trampoline. I know. I’m not sure I like that idea either. I think the trampoline might be more fun, too.
This month it’s really hit me how incredibly short each phase of your life will be. You are no longer any part baby-you’re all kid now, and I have started to understand why so many people’s children are 2.5 to three years apart. I love love love the little person you have become, ToddlerA, but I will never stop missing the tiny baby that you were. If you ask me “what’s your favorite age” I have to always say “this one” because it’s true. With each new milestone you hit, life with you is more fun. At every turn you’re doing something new and amazing or irritating but so cute; like lately you’ve enjoyed emptying and ENTIRE DRAWER of clothes. But while you’re doing it, you hold gaments up to your chest and excaim, “cuuuute!” before you toss them aside. I don’t know how you learned this so young, but I’m constantly amazed by your ability to toe the line between evil Devil Spawn and quirky, opinionated but disarmingly cute. Please hold onto that skill, kid, because with your genes you’re going to need some way to disarm people.
Lately I’ve been feeling very insecure and high-school-ish. No one seems to like me anymore, and every couple of days I’ll have a minor freak out and convince myself that everyone at work is talking about me when they go out to smoke. I hope you never ever have days like this, ToddlerA. But if you ever do, my greatest wish for you is that you get to wake up every day and greet a tiny person who loves every square inch of you, without question or judgement. My favorite thing about this whole month is that even when I’m in a really bad mood, and even if I haven’t shaved, or washed my hair in a few days, and even if I say “just a minute” 15 times when you need something, you still pat the floor beside you on the rug and ask me to play legos. And you still come take me by the hand and lead me outside when you need a push in your new yard car. And you still want a taste of every thing I eat or drink. You make no assumptions and you take no excuses. You love me even when I have little to give back, and I find myself striving to perk up on those days because it makes you so happy.
I’m so grateful for each second that we have together; I wish I could remember them all. –Love, Mom